The Scriptures are replete with declarations which describe mankind’s fallen status and his dire need for redemption, forgiveness, grace, and mercy; and thus, regeneration. Jesus, in John 3, told a man named Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” What did Jesus mean by “being born again”? That is a great question. God created man as a tricodamus being, having a body, soul, and Spirit; yet, when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden they died spiritually and were left with only a body and soul . . . thus estranged from the Creator. Jesus’ declared purpose for having come was to give His life as a ransom for lost humanity. He made it abundantly clear that His sacrifice was for everyone; yet, to appropriate the new birth (forgiveness, redemption, and regeneration) each person had to make it a personal event between him and Jesus (Romans 10:9-10). Once that is accomplished, something amazing occurs; Christ comes into the confessing sinner’s heart, and indwells the person with His Spirit . . . thus, making the sinner complete with all three parts. Paul describes it in II Corinthians as, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things become new.” The great truth of Paul’s declaration is that the individual’s status has forever been changed before God! Paul’s point is that those who are “in Christ” have a new identity . . . that being that they are “in Christ” and “Christ us in them.” In Luke 14:8, Jesus said He came to set the captive free, and in John 8:36, He declared that anyone He set free was free, indeed!
In John 14, Jesus and His disciples gather in the upper room (the upstairs section of a friend’s two-story house). The declared purpose of the evening was to celebrated and observe the Jewish holy day known as the Passover. During the course of the evening, Jesus informed them that the time for His ultimate sacrifice was near. It was a time of confusion and sorrow for the disciples, as they were locked into a theology that reasoned good things come to good people while bad things come upon bad people . . . each being a reflection of the individual’s standing with God. As the observation came to an end, Jesus led the disciples toward the Garden. As they walked along in the early evening, one of the men looked back toward the temple and saw the moonlight reflecting off of the golden vine woven into the temple gate. He commented to Jesus how attractive it was. As Jesus looked back at the gate, he said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.” Jesus’ statement was confusing to these men who had always been taught that the vine represented the nation Israel in the world system. What Jesus was saying to them was that a very big change was about to occur . . . up to that moment they, along with the other Jews, got their identity from Israel, but that was about to change . . . going forward they would have to draw their identity from Him, as the Redeemer.
Therefore, we, too get our identity from Christ. In Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”
So, if I have been redeemed by the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, if I have been forgiven of sin, indwelled by the Spirit of Christ, and provided a complete new identity, why do I continue to struggle with life? I think the simple explanation is that I, along with most Believers, allow the enemy to confuse us with his smoke-and-mirrors. We find ourselves living in a performance-based faith that says, “I don’t smoke, drink, cuss, cheat, steal, or gossip, so I am doing pretty well.” But that is not true faith. True faith is a relationship . . . much greater than any list of dos and don’ts.
As we perform an identity-check, we might discover that in spite of our new identity we have permitted the enemy to chain us in any number of ways. Here are a few examples:
Chained mentally . . . where we are held back by a mindset that argues that we are not good enough, that we are not smart enough, strong enough, gifted enough, and the list of insecurities can go on and on.
Chained emotionally . . . where we are bound by our fears, apprehensions, chained to the past, things others have said to us, or about us.
Chained relationally . . . where we might be chained by a relationship with a family member, spouse, neighbor, co-worker, an enemy, a fellow Church member. We can be seriously held back in our journey if we begin to allow these relationships to identify us and speak to us about who we are.
Chained attitudinally . . . where we might be chained by greed, envy, jealousy, anger, conceit, pride, and other such destructive mindsets.
Chained by the enemy’s deceit and his ability to confuse us about our true identity. If he is able to keep us off-center, he can stunt our development and prevent our ability to serve the Kingdom. A couple of brief examples to illustrate the point:
1. We might invite someone into our home with the greeting, “Make yourself at home,” but we don’t really mean it. If the guest takes control of the remote control and begins surfing channels, we grow disturbed. It would really get bad if the guest started rummaging through the drawers in the kitchen. What our invitation really meant was, “Make yourself at home in this one chair, in this one room, and don’t move until I get back!” The sad truth is we tend to do that very thing to Jesus.
2. One’s relationship with Jesus is closely akin to a marriage relationship. The hard truth about marriage is that it does not work for two single people simply living in the same dwelling. A marriage having two ambitions, two agendas, and two sets of priorities just does not work. To make the marriage work, the couple must stop the “me thinking” and adopt a “we thinking.” The same must happen in a Believer’s mindset with Jesus.
It Seems to Me . . . that the enemy of our souls never stops his efforts to create confusion. One of his most effective tools is identity confusion. Note that it is not identity theft . . . because our identity is safeguarded by Jesus himself, but the tragedy results in our confusion . . . failing to understand who we are and then living in that understanding. The understanding that cries out, “my struggles do not define me, and I refuse to allow them to confine me!”